State dragging feet on maize disease – Kuttuny
MPs in Rift Valley want the government to help farmers to deal with the new disease which has now destroyed 64,000 hectares of maize in three provinces. Although Agriculture PS Dr Romano Kiome has appointed a team to investigate the cause of the disease, the MPs said the government is taking too long to stop its spread.
The damage it has caused so far is valued at more than Sh 2 Billion. “We are asking the government not to take lightly the disease because it threatens food security unless measures are put in place to control it,” said Cheranganyi MP Joshua Kutunyi. The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture led by Naivasha MP John Mututho has also been urged to take up the matter and bring it in Parliament for discussion.
Kutunyi accused the government of handling the matter " casually" yet farmers in many regions have been hit by the disease. A government Task Force has been formed to deal with the new maize disease that has affected farmers in parts of Rift Valley, Nyanza, Central and Western has started its work.
The task force appointed by the government will visit affected regions to asses the situation and come up with recommendations on how to deal with it. The team along with other researchers are visiting the affected farms mostly in the South Rift region. There are fears that the disease could spread and cause heavier damages in the next planting season. Agricultural experts are already advising farmers to adopt rotational farming in order to avoid having the disease spread to next year.
However the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) is projecting that more than 40 million bags of maize will be harvested this year causing the country to have a food surplus despite the disease having affected many farmers. He said the new maize disease in parts of the country will not have a major impact on the harvest. “Yes the disease has affected farmers mostly in the South Rift region but our survey indicates that the impact will not be heavy during harvesting.
The disease was reported in Uasin Gishu and parts of Nandi which are high producing areas for maize. Nandi Agricultural Officer Thomas Bett said more farmers had reported about invasion on their farms by the disease. Maize crops which were planted this year turn yellow and dry up following the invasion.